Posts Categorized: 1. Joop.in:

Halloween 2009

PA310371Americans celebrate Halloween. I don’t understand what it is about, or what one is supposed to do. Being an outsider, I was surprised to learn that the spooky American tradition is known and celebrated throughout the International community in Shanghai as well. It’s bit different as:

  1. Ringing the doors of our Chinese neighbors for trick-or-treating probably isn’t appreciated.
  2. Costumes are hard to get by, so you have to be creative
  3. Commercially exploited festivals are a bit shallow anyway

PA310373Instead of going to the Barbie halloween party, or the disco parties, we watched a movie with some Pizza’s with some friends. Our friends really put out a lot of effort, next to pizza’s, decoration and a projector, they found a very scary movie to fit the Halloween theme. We watched Paranormal Activity, a recommendation, for us inspiration to share more scary stories throughout the night. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth watching. After a while, we went to the Shelter (club with one of the worst air quality in Shanghai, but lot’s of people in costumes) I didn’t like the air, CNN Go reviewed as follows “Imagine your grandmother’s basement three months after a summer flood. Now triple that. And throw in a dead pet.”Kuche Kuche. Happy halloween everybody!

Boat trip, Leifeng Pagoda in Hangzhou, China

OMNG4This weekend we made a small trip of 180km out of Shanghai to see the West lake in Hangzhou China, with 6.5 million people not a small town, but due to the beautiful scenery of the lake and the hillside, it’s a favorite destination for many Shanghainese. For me, it was a trip down memory lane, because I had been there for a few weeks during my first stay in China, ten years ago. While at the lakeside, we tried local food, walked around the bamboo forest and had an icecream while looking around. Later, we payed a gondolier about 8 euro’s to take us around the lake by private boat.
While on the lake, we noticed the six story Leifeng Pagoda on top of a hill, a beautiful sight. I was surprised to see it, and wondered if I missed it during my last trip to Hangzhou. It turned out that the Chinese reconstructed the pagoda eight years ago. The original one was build in 975, but collapsed in 1924. The new tower was quite modern, it contains four sightseeing elevators, and modern features including air conditioners.

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The view from the tower was spectacular, especially considering the sunset. On one side you can see the city, on flat ground, on the other there is a forest on the hills with a temple here and there. The original base of the pagoda is kept in good condition as well as the treasures discovered in an underground chamber.

Special visitor from Netherlands

OMNG22I’ve got a special vistior from the Netherlands over this week. Giel Talsma is a former neighbor of mine and we’ve known each other for over ten years. I ran into him when I was in Holland during the summer and I invited him to China, he was excited immediately. OMNG1After picking him up at the Pudong airport on a early Saturday, we have had a busy schedule. Besides doing groceries at the local market, we have been to a black-market to buy clothes. In the evening, we went to a Chinese hotpot place with Korean, Australian and Japanese friends. First, Giel was a bit intrigued by the fact that there was a sheep-spine being served, but he quickly adapted to the Chinese kitchen.

Tribute to the potato

When people inquire about typical Dutch cuisine, the first thing that pops to my mind is the “potato eaters” painting by Vincent Van Gogh. To me, this ‘cozy setting’ visualizes how Dutch peasants have been eating potato’s every day for at least 400 years, in a typical Dutch way. Besides the painting, I was raised eating potato’s almost every day – thankfully in a much brighter environment – and growing up on a small farm, I still remember being occupied with bare-hand potato harvesting for a number of seasons as a kid. It stuck to me that this is typical Dutch lifestyle and cuisine. After having worked and lived in Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, South Korea and now China, I know that potato’s are eaten very differently in every country (Same counts for the potato chips). In Europe, we used to eat dry-boiled or fried potato’s, and of course mashed for boerenkool, I was shocked to learn that South Koreans regard to potato’s as snacks! The (sweet) potato’s are consumed behind the TV while watching a movie and most pizza’s are topped with the Peru delicacy by default, they would not even think of boiling them like we do. However, I have never had such nice potatos as in Shandong China, (likely Anhui kitchen?). The Chinese prepared one particular dish where they seem to fry rasped potato together with ginger, garlic and hot spices. I know it’s silly to even mention such a simple dish while referring to sophisticated Chinese cuisine, but the taste just blew me of my chair: If anybody has the recipe, let me know!
China potatoPS: Thinking about it, I realize that Nuffic, The Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education, prints brochures telling Asian students that the Dutch national dish is not potato, but Indonesian fried rice. But Dutch are probably eating that for less then 200 years. If you ask me, potato is more typical.

20 cent gym part 2: bench press

Remember the 20 cent gym I blogged about? It was about the Chinese ‘muscle beach’:, a bunch of people assembling in a Shanghai park to work out every day. Frankly, the Chinese men pulling heavy weights while looking angry can be quite impressive (but why do they take their shirts off?), I decided to show the scene to a foreign visitor yesterday. After watching the spectacle together for a few minutes, one of them came up to me and dared me to do some bench presses.
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Gamers in Qiandaohu – Spilgames outing at 1000 islands

P1000805Last week, the entire Spilgames Asia team assembled on a Thursday morning 7 AM in front of our office. The Chinese, Polish, American, Korean and Dutch colleagues got up early for good reason; Spilgames organized a company outing to Qiandaohu – favorite holiday destination for many Shanghainese – by bus, so we had to leave early to avoid Shanghai traffic. Upon arrival, the tone of the weekend was set: we hiked up a mountain as a group. At first I wanted to race to the top but I realized that this was a great opportunity to get to know my fellow Chinese colleagues. The scenery was beautiful, almost magical with a thick fog floating over the typical Chinese mountaintops. The highlight was the end of the road, heavingly lake and then a beautiful waterfall, something our CEO, Marc van der Chijs found irresistible – when I met him after his climb, he was soaking wet from the water! After the climb, went downstream a river rafting, and then we had a very nice dinner.
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That evening we decided to go to the most exquisite – and only – discotheque in town with 3 euro all-you-can-drink service. The spirit was good, and the music was so loud that we ended up looking at the crowd. I noticed that the (mostly male) crowd seemed to be very hot, as they all took off their shirts… then I noticed a little while later, thay they seemed to be irritated by the loud music as well, as they clearly had difficulty hearing each other; oh no… wait… are they making out? That was quite a surprise to see! Anyway, the night ended up eating chicken at the local KFC; naturally. The next day – after a Chinese breakfast and a coffee in the morning – it was finally time to see the artificial lake, the “land of 1000 islands” – a place I have visited before, ten years ago. This was the first time that I had a clear point of reference of China’s development. The landscape was the same, but the (real estate) development blew me away! Think: Mass tourist facilitation, muddy roads replaced by highways, shops bars … but a beer still costs only a euro. All and all, it was a great time out with the company!

Note to self:

  • When going outside Shanghai, bring your own coffee (or donuts for that matter) for breakfast
  • It pays off to sit in the front of the bus, as the back is hotter and more vibrant
  • Snake shows with teethless snakes are boring, but (teeth less, duh) ostridges are always fun!
  • Western people are barbarians as it comes to drinking beer in public, as opposed to Chinese

Some parents really step up role in children’s dating game

P1210844While walking around Shanghai last weekend, we came across the most particular scene at the People’s Park. Hundreds of elders had gathered and were having a market like situation where a few were adverting something and others were inquiring. We found out that they had eagerly gathered to exchange information about their children/grandchildren in search for their perfect life mate. P1210847These pamphlets with information were often hung on tree leafs or a washing line, and included information such as: -height (seemed exaggerated), -age, -telephone number and income. (!) These attempts are not always performed with their children’s consent! It seems that most Shanghai men and women enjoy their single life and strive for career first and consider marriage later. It seems that the ancient arranged marriages made place for arranged dating. Is this killing romance?

Shanghai Marathon 2009

(CC) By 2 dogs http://www.flickr.com/photos/2_dogs/2061152129/With the whole Seoul Hangang Marathon experience still fresh in mind, I decided to subscribe for half a marathon in Shanghai. This particular run is quite a bigger event, taking place in the heart of the city. Isn’t Shanghai a terrible dirty city to run the marathon? While some might expect that this ‘smoggy city’, once called the ‘opposite of nature’ by Yan Arthus Bertand, would be a bad place to be running *kuche kuche*. Actually, I can see stars at night, and there are a number of great facilities to exercise in the city. Out of curiosity, I compared world records the local ones and it seems that Shanghai can compare itself with the other world marathons. The overall record of men’s Shanghai marathon being 2:09:28 (world record is 2:03:59, ran by Haile Gebrselassie in Berlin) and the record of women’s Shanghai marathon being 2:26:19. (world record is 2:15:25, ran by Paula Radcliffe in London.) So I feel pretty comfortable running here. I am just trying to avoid running on the street as it is a bit dangerous. Perhaps the biggest difference to last time is that besides colleges, both my dad and my girlfriend will be joining the half marathon run as well. I will commence training from this week, if I can find the time to tear myself away from the computer.

The 20 cent workout in Shanghai

outdoor gymA 40 year old Chinese man drives his motor bike with carrier filled with barbells, dumbbells and a radio to the park outside my Shanghai compound every evening. Upon arrival, he marks an area of roughly 40 square meters and unloads the heavy weights. Shortly after, the place is packed with shirtless muscular Chinese men working out. I have seen and walked by this scene on a daily basis over the last few weeks and enjoyed the scene a lot. It’s also really funny to see the trespassers sit down for a while and look at the people working out. gymIntrigued with this Chinese version of ‘muscle beach‘, I decided to ask the guy for the price. He smiled and told me that I could join them for 2 RMB (about EUR 0.20). My official (indoor) gym at Raffles costs me about ¬ 20 per month, if I would workout with these fine men, I would pay just 30% of what I am paying now. I’ll think about it… While the guy is hawking, and most certainly can be closed down instantly, he has shown me that with little budget and some creativity, it is easy to make a few extra bucks.

Pictures from around Shanghai

Old meets new – Taken at the Jingan temple “Temple of Peace and Tranquility” this afternoon.
Wiki: “The first temple was built in 247 AD, at the time of the Kingdom of Wu, during the Three Kingdoms period. Originally located beside Suzhou Creek, it was relocated to its current site in 1216 during the Song Dynasty. The current temple was rebuilt once in the Qing Dynasty. Its most recent renovation was in late 2008.”

Some help please? I’m not particularly proud of this picture, the woman clearly had trouble getting her goods up the bridge. Instead of helping a hand, I decided to take a picture instead. I found out later that a guy was pushing the goods from the back as well. Must be quite hard work to scrape goods around the city…

Firm stands – Chinese police blocking the road at Shaanxi Nan Lu during the opening parade of the Shanghai tourist festival. The streets were so full of people that there was actually nothing interesting to see, except for these cops.